The faces, names, cultures and nationalities are different, but farmers around the world are concerned about many of the same issues.
Onyaole Patience Koku farms 500 hectares in Nigeria. Her background includes experience in the fashion industry, running a 12,000 broiler/cycle poultry farm, and trading commodities. She was one of 11 representatives who spoke at the Global Farmer Network Roundtable on Wednesday morning this week, during the World Food Prize activities in Des Moines, Iowa. Here are four observations from the discussion.
1. Consumer issues: Worrying about whether food is organic or not is a “developed world problem,” the farmers said. People in developing countries buy what farmers raise – they’re just happy to have food.
2. Farmer commonalities: Farmers in developing countries are as intelligent, progressive and “evolved” as farmers in developed countries. The difference is in their access to capital and resources. Their similarities are much greater than their differences, and they appreciate learning from each other in an effort to improve understanding
3. Technology: Technology is as advanced in developing countries as in developed countries. In fact, in Nigeria, people can buy smart phones for about $10, and connectivity is often better than in the U.S.
4. Influencing policy: Adriel “AD” Alvarez from the Philippines jokingly said he wished there was a technology that could produce a seed, such that when it was fed to policymakers, it would turn them into better politicians. Chibuike Emmanuel from Nigeria said policy was a major challenge in his country, with a lot of bottlenecks. Larry Sailer representing the U.S. said policy works better with strong farmer organizations. Bill Crabtree from Australia mentioned that letters to the editor are an effective way of promoting change in his part of the world.
The Global Farmer Network “is a non-profit advocacy group led by farmers from around the world who support free trade and farmers’ freedom to choose the tools, technologies and strategies they need to maximize productivity and profitability in a sustainable manner,” according to the organization’s website.
Established in 2000, the GFN is committed to inserting farmers’ voices around the world in the global dialogue regarding food and nutritional security. The organization identifies, engages and supports strong farmer leaders from around the world who can work with others “to innovate, encourage and lead as full stakeholders in the work that is being done to fill the world’s food and nutrition security gap in a sustainable manner,” it says.